Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Gaskins, 17 March 1781

From Thomas Gaskins

Northumbld. march 17. 1781.


Joseph Hurst, an old offender, was taken up Last night by Capn. McAdam who Commands a Troop of Cavalry in this County, who Received a Letter from John Gordon Esqr. telling him to have him Secured and sent down to you. I also Receiv’d a Letter, and warrant, from you some time past to have the Said Jos. Hurst taken and sent under a safe Guard to you; but then it was out of my power to Comply with it in the time mentioned; but I should have been glad to have had something from under your hand at present; but as he seems to bid defiance against all men who are friends to the American cause, and its not worth while to have him tried in our County, as the people are so much poisoned by him and others of the same stamp, and there many ought to sheare the same fate, I hope he may be safely keep and not sent to the Enemy, as he may insist on it by haveing a parole from them, which he has taken the opportunity of Boarding every Vessell he could, and, it [is] thought, giving all the intelligence he could to the enemy. If he should be permited to return home he may be worse than if nothing had been done, for our Liveing depends in a great measure on his been Secured, not so much as to my Self, as to the trade; but if he comes back he will boast more than ever and take up more of the people than before, for we are much divided and if we could get shut of a few more it would be much the better for our place. If he should be permited to return, hope he may be confind to a place of safety or secured at his own home, and not be permited to board any Vessell. I am Sir yr. most Obedient & Very Humbl Servt.,

Thos. Gaskins

RC (Vi); addressed in part: “perCapt. John Mcadams”; endorsed. There is also on the address leaf a rough map of what appears to be a village or small settlement, with a network of roads leading off in one direction. There is no indication of what this represents. The names “Jacques Le Maire” and “George Woodson” are also written on the address leaf.

The letter and warrant from TJ to Gaskins authorizing him to arrest Joseph Hurst have not been found, but on the general state of disaffection in Northumberland, of which Gaskins was county lieutenant, see Gaskins to TJ, 23 Feb. and note there. On 20 Mch. Hurst was committed to jail in Richmond and at the same time the Council directed that he “be heard in his defense tomorrow 10 oClock And that the favor be asked of the Delegates from Westmoreland, Northumberland, and Lancaster, and also that the guard who brought the said Hurst to this place be required to attend … to give evidence to the board, touching the conduct of the said Hurst.” At the hearing evidence was produced to show that Hurst’s “character is universally that of a person disaffected to the United States”; that he was a source of disaffection in the county; that he had kept up communication with the enemy; and that he had acted as pilot for British ships “in their Depredations.” On the basis of these findings the Council sentenced Hurst to “be continued in close jail, until two responsible and well affected persons shall become sureties for his faithful conduct towards this State; and restraining himself within such bounds as shall be prescribed by the Executive” (Va. Council Jour. description begins Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 312, 314).

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